21 places that could really do with not being part of Greater London

Happy Valley, near Coulsdon, which really doesn't make me very happy at all. Image: GanMed64/creative commons.

Greater London is a big beast. It’s 606sq miles, and has 32 boroughs and the City of London. The Greater London Authority runs it from City Hall in Southwark, and like all decent cities it has a mayor, Sadiq Khan.

What it also has – which doesn’t seem to fit its proud city status – is a load of random fields, farms, and tiny villages that really don’t need to be there.

There are plenty of perfectly good counties all around the place that could take these chunks of land and do something with them, while real London could get on with its important business of, you know, actually being a city.

Here, in a torrent of unashamed bitterness, are 21 of those places.

1) North Ockenden, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Look at all that green. It’s the wrong side of M25, for a start, and it’s the most easterly and most outlying settlement in Greater London (as rightly measured by distance from Charing Cross). Somebody in 1992 had the bright idea of giving everything east of the M25 to Essex, but a bunch of NIMBYs said no, obviously, and so here we are.

2) Puddledock Farm Fisheries, Upminster

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

These guys run fishing matches on ‘the Snake Lake’ every Sunday, so that’s nice. There are four lakes – including a purpose built competition lake, a specimen lake, and a peg lake. Whatever any of that means. All I’m seeing is a whole lot of green and a whole lot of wrong side of the M25.

3) Fairlop Plain, Barkingside

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This is Redbridge, so it’s not even one of the hard-core, middle-of-nowhere boroughs, and yet here we are. There’s a tube station right next to a huge load of random green, including (but not limited to) a Country Park, a golf course, a large lake, another golf club, and a whole load of empty fields. Honestly. Three tube stations in one screenshot and a whole load of green. Immoral.

4) Turkey Brook and Clay Hill, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Ignoring the Museum of Transport up in the top left – everyone loves a museum of transport – this is just a whole load of green countryside that does not need to be in London.

5) Botany Bay, Enfield Chase

Lovely and green. Image: Christine Matthews/creative commons.

Get back to Sydney where you belong, and stop being so ridiculous, Enfield. It’s about a mile away from the nearest train station, and it has a farm shop. This is not the future liberals want.

6) Trent Park, Enfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

If there were a triple lock designed to annoy CityMetric readers as much as the real one annoys the youth, this one has it. It’s in the Green Belt, lies within a conservation area, and also gets a spot in the Register of Parks and Gardens of Special Historic Interest in England. This sounds like a lovely place, but it’s just empty fields from here to the M25 and beyond into Hertfordshire, so why not just give them the thing.

7) The road between Totteridge and Highwood Hill

Not London. Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This stretch of winding road has acres and acres of green space on either side, and has a pretty open path out to the countryside of Hertfordshire. What need for it to be in London?

8) Hill End, Hillingdon

I've always wanted to live in a big city like London. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

Part of a charming park – the Colne Valley Regional Park – that really doesn’t need to be in London, and is a 57-minute trudge away from the nearest train station, Rickmansworth on the Metropolitan line. Or if you want to be in Zone 6, it’s an hour and ten to walk to Northwood. Your choice.

9) Malden Rushett, near Epsom

The long shadow of urbanisation. Image: Nigel Cox/creative commons.

You know that bit where London pokes out to the south west, like an accusatory pointing finger? It’s the Borough of Kingston-upon-Thames, and I’d always assumed there was something important there that needed to be included in Greater London. But no. There’s just this village. It even has a sad dribble of a railway line that they started building south of Chessington South station, on the branch line from Motspur Park, before the Green Belt was introduced and they realised that there was no point taking the line any further south. Thanks, Green Belt. You gave us this pointless village on the udder of London.

 

10) Happy Valley & The Devil’s Den, Coulsdon

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

I’m not happy about the fact that this is in the Borough of Croydon when it could just as easily be in Surrey.

 

11) Kings Wood, near Warlingham

Look at the density of that wood. Crazy.

 

12) Addington Hills, Addington

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Swathes and swathes of countryside, green things, and another golf course. What is it with all the golf courses.

 

13) Layhams Farm, Layhams Cattery, and the Metropolitan Police Dog Training Establishment, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Not making any of this up.

 

14) Shepherds Shaw, Tatsfield

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

So many fields, so little need to be in the urban area of Greater London.

 

15) Buckhurst, near Biggin Hill

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Most Londoners wouldn’t know what to do with this much green even if you put it in a bag of toasted kale chips and charged four quid for it.

16) Horns Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

A trio of charming villages here.

17) Berry’s Green, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

I know it’s not good to quote from Wikipedia, but the entry here is too good. It's apparently “a fairly wooded rural area with a scattering of farmland”.

18) Downe, Bromley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

Charles Darwin lived here, and that’s it. That’s literally all they’ve got.

19) Hockenden, near Swanley

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps.

This *hamlet* isn’t even on a bus route.

20) Rainham Marshes

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Drain the swamp, drain the swamp, drain the swamp.

21) Hacton, Havering

Click to expand. Image: Google Maps

Surrounded by the – you guessed it – green belt.


Of course the alternative to chucking all of these places out of Greater London would just be to build some bloody houses on them, but let’s not push the boat out too far. 

Jack May is a regular contributor to CityMetric and tweets as @JackO_May.

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The best way to make housing more affordable? Raise interest rates

Lol, no. Image: Getty.

Speaking to the Conservative Party conference in September 2017, the UK prime minister, Theresa May, gave a stark assessment of the UK housing market which made for depressing listening for many young people: “For many the chance of getting onto the housing ladder has become a distant dream”, she said.

Now a new report by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) provides further, clear evidence of this. The study finds that home ownership among 25 to 34-year-olds has declined sharply over the past 20 years. Home ownership rates have declined from 43 per cent at age 27 for someone born in the late 1970s, to just 25 per cent for someone aged 27 who was born in the late 1980s.

The most significant decline has been for middle-income young people, whose rate of home ownership has fallen from 65 per cent in 1995-6 to 27 per cent now – most significantly hitting aspirant buyers in London and the South-East.

Causes and consequences

The IFS study lays the blame for all this on the growing gap between house prices and incomes. Adjusting for inflation, house prices have risen 150 per cent in the 20 years to 2015-16, while real incomes for 25 to 34-year-olds have grown by 22 per cent (and almost all of that growth happened before the 2008 crash).

A bleak picture. Image: Institute for Fiscal Studies.

But, as the report acknowledges, the problem goes much deeper than this. Home ownership rates differ by region. Although there has been a decline in home ownership rates for young people across all areas of Great Britain, the decline is less significant in the North East and Cumbria as well as in Scotland and the South West. The biggest decline in ownership has been in the South-East, the North-West (excluding Cumbria) and London.

So a person aged 25 to 34 is more than twice as likely to own their own home in Cumbria, as their counterpart in London. Worse, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are less likely to own their own homes – even after controlling for differences in education and earnings. Home ownership continues to reflect a deeper inequality of opportunity in our society.


More houses needed

Part of the problem is that both Labour and Conservative governments have seen housing as a single, stand-alone market and have focused their attention on what is happening to prices in London. But housing is a number of different markets, which have regional variations and different interactions between the owner-occupier, private rented and social rented sectors.

Regional variations in house prices for similar sized properties reflect the imbalances of the economy: it is heavily reliant on financial services, which are concentrated in London, while the public sector makes up a significant share of many local economies – particularly in the North. Migration from across the UK to overcrowded and expensive areas – such as London and the South-East – have put property prices in those areas even further out of reach for would-be buyers.

To make matters worse, both Labour and Conservative governments have routinely failed to build enough houses. While the current government’s aim to build 300,000 new properties a year by 2020 is welcome, it is simply not enough to meet the backlog in demand – let alone address the fundamental affordability problem.

Where homes are being built, they’re often the wrong types of homes, in the wrong places. Family homes are being built, despite there being some 4m under-occupied such properties across the country.

Not that long ago, government was reducing the housing stock in many parts of the North, through the disastrous Housing Market Renewal programme. Houses are currently being sold in smaller cities such as Liverpool and Stoke-on-Trent for just £1. And none of the government’s actions suggest that ministers understand these issues, or are prepared to address them.

House price inflation – and the awful affect it is having on home ownership rates for young people – is part of a wider problem of the global asset bubble. This bubble has seen huge increases in the price of assets – stocks, housing, bonds – in high income countries such as the UK. Successive governments have helped to fuel this through quantitative easing, ultra-cheap money and successive raids on pension funds.

The ConversationWhat’s needed to address this asset bubble is a substantive increase in interest rates. But while this may slow the growth in house prices, the sad truth is it will do nothing to make housing more affordable for most young people.

Chris O'Leary, Deputy Director, Policy Evaluation and Research Unit and Senior Lecturer, Manchester Metropolitan University.

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.